American Ballet Theatre cancels its 2021 Met season, eyes outdoor opportunities

American Ballet Theatre cancels its 2021 Met season, eyes outdoor opportunities

American Ballet Theatre will not perform its annual spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House in 2021, the company announced Tuesday. The news marks the second cancellation of the performing arts organization’s weeks-long stay at the 4,000 seat theater amid the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. The run was scheduled for June and July, and was to be the first of the company’s shortened seasons at the opera house.

“Since 1976, the Company has performed regular seasons at the Met, so the loss of two seasons on the iconic Met stage weighs heavily,” ABT Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie said in a statement. “Our dancers, musicians, staff and crew look forward to the day when we can return to this magnificent opera house and perform live for our loyal fans.”

The Metropolitan Opera with the American Ballet Theatre banner during its 2019 season. Photo: Ajay Suresh.
The Metropolitan Opera with the American Ballet Theatre banner during its 2019 season. Photo: Ajay Suresh.

In the meantime, the company stated it plans to provide a host of digital programming and outdoor performances, with new works from Lauren Lovette, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Alexei Ratmansky and Sonya Tayeh expected to premiere in 2021.

“We will continue to find novel ways to create through crisis and to share our artistry with the widest possible audience nationwide and worldwide,” Kara Medoff Barnett, executive director at ABT, said.

The news further erases a slate of programming scheduled to be performed on the Lincoln Center campus in the coming year. Last month, New York City Ballet announced it will not return to its home stage, the David H. Koch Theater, until the fall of 2021. The Met will remain dark until Sept. 27, and the New York Philharmonic canceled the entirety of its 2020–2021 season.

When ABT announced the cancellation of its 2020 Met season earlier this year, the company estimated a loss of $18 million in revenue, factoring in the touring performances that were also dropped in the early days of the pandemic. Since then, the institution has staged a number of virtual performances — including a gala last week, which saw the debut of new works created in “ballet bubbles” by Moultrie, Gemma Bond, Christopher Rudd and Pam Tanowitz. The program benefited the company’s newly launched diversity, equity and inclusion program ABT RISE.

“The unprecedented challenges of the pandemic have been catalytic fuel for transformation,” McKenzie said in the announcement. “This has been a time of exploring new ways of working and collaborating as we extend the repertoire, and as we find new storytelling partners and platforms to bring the artistry of ABT to the world.”